Environmental Performance of Agriculture in OECD Countries Since 1990

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In OECD countries, agriculture uses on average over 40% of land and water resources, and thus has significant affect on the environment. This report provides the latest and most comprehensive data and analysis on the environmental performance of agriculture in OECD countries since 1990. It covers key environmental themes including soil, water, air and biodiversity and looks at recent policy developments in all 30 countries.

Over recent years the environmental performance of agriculture has improved in many countries, largely due to consumer pressure and changing public opinion. Many OECD countries are now tracking the environmental performance of agriculture, which is informing policy makers and society on the trends in agri-environmental conditions, and can provide a valuable aid to policy analysis. The indicators in this report provide crucial information to monitor and analyse the wide range of policy measures used in agriculture today, and how they are affecting the environment. 

Did You Know?  In OECD countries, agriculture uses on average 40% of land and water resources.

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OECD Country Trends of Environmental Conditions related to Agriculture since 1990: New Zealand

The agricultural sector is important to the New Zealand economy. It contributes about 4% to GDP and 8% to employment, while farm exports accounted for over 50% of the value of merchandise exports in 2004 [1] (Figure 3.20.1). Agriculture has undergone substantial structural change over the past 20 years, since the government’s commitments to economic liberalisation, including the removal of most agricultural support. The farming sector has responded with further diversification, the area under horticulture and vines rose by over 20% and forestry plantations by 40%; and intensification, with some sectors (dairy) relying on greater use of inputs (e.g. fertilisers) to increase production, and others (horticulture) focusing on raising value and quality [2]. As a result, the volume of agricultural production grew by 38% over the period 1990-92 to 2002-04 on a declining area of farmland (–3%) (Figure 3.20.2). Also the use of purchased farm inputs (volume) grew more rapidly than output, revealing the intensification of production over the same period, with inorganic nitrogen and phosphate fertiliser use rising by around 420% and 100% respectively; direct on-farm energy consumption 22%; but pesticide use by only 4% (Figure 3.20.2) [3, 4, 5, 6]. Overall this has resulted in improvements over 1985 to 2006 compared to 1972 to 1984 (numbers in brackets), in the total output per annum; input productivity; and factor productivity, by 1.7% (1.1%), 1.9% (0.2%), and 3.1% (–0.5%) respectively [7].

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